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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

GENIUS AND POVERTY
made up his mind to start his great venture with his own funds.
Abel played a part in clinching the decision. There are two
accounts of the first meeting of Ahel and Crelle, both interest-
ing. Crelle at the time was holding down a government job for
which he had but little aptitude and less liking, that of examiner
at the Trade-School (Gewerbe-Institut) in Berlin. At third-hand
(Crelle to Weierstrass to Mrttag-Leffler) Crelle's account of that
historic meeting is as follows.
'One fine day a fair young man, much embarrassed, with a
very youthful and very intelligent face, walked into my room.
Believing that I had to do with an examination-candidate for
admission to the Trade-School, I explained that several
separate examinations would be necessary. At last the young
man opened his mouth and explained [in poor German], 4kNot
examination, only mathematics".*
Crelle saw that Abel was a foreigner and tried him in French,
hi which Abel could make himself understood with some diffi-
culty. Crelle then questioned him about what he had done in
mathematics. Diplomatically enough Abel replied that he had
read, among other things, CreUe's own paper of 1823, then
recently published, on 'analytical faculties' (now called
factorials' hi English). He had found the work most interesting
he said, but -. Then, not so diplomatically, he proceeded to tell
Crelle that parts of the work were quite wrong. It was here that
Crelle showed his greatness. Instead of freezing or blowing up
in a rage at the daring presumption of the young man before
him, he pricked up his ears and asked for particulars, which he
followed with the closest attention. They had a long mathe-
matical talk, only parts of which were intelligible to Crelle.
But whether he understood all that Abel told "him or not, Crelle
saw clearly what Abel was. Crelle never did understand a tenth
of what Abel was up to, but his sure instinct for mathematical
genius told him that Abel was a mathematician of the first
water and he did everything in his power to gain recognition
for his young protege. Before the interview was ended Crelle
had made up his mind that Abel must be one of the first
contributors to the projected Journal.
Abel's account difters9 but not essentially. Reading between
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